Boston College kicked off spring practice on Wednesday with head coach Steve Addazio’s spring press conference. The Eagles will officially start spring practice on Saturday and will have 15 practices over the course of the next 45 days.
Here are five things to watch for as the Eagles start spring practices.
1. Coaching changes: Addazio made several changes to his staff this off-season. Most notably, Bill Sheridan, formally the linebackers coach will take over as defensive coordinator. Sheridan has coordinated in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants. Former defensive coordinator Jim Reid will coach the defensive ends. The Eagles will have a new defensive backs coach as well with the hiring of Eric Lewis. Lewis comes to Boston College from Colorado State where he coached the cornerbacks.
The Eagles are returning four starters on defense so the new defensive staff will have a lot of work to do this spring. Seven new starters must emerge.
2. Offensive line holes must be filled: No pun intended there folks but the Eagles have to replace a lot of talent along the offensive line. Gone are guard Chris Lindstrom (47 career starts), tackle Aaron Monteiro (41 starts) center Jon Baker (38 starts) and tackle Sam Schmal (19 starts).
The Eagles are however returning several experienced lineman who have either started or can step in and start. Right tackle Ben Petrula has started 24 games over the last two seasons and is going to move from right tackle to left. Guards Elijah Johnson (10 starts) and John Phillips (18 starts) have plenty of starting experience as well. Alec Lindstrom (brother of Chris) will replace Baker at center.
Addazio also praised tackle Tyler Vrabel and guard Finn Dirstine in his press conference and said both will have an opportunity to compete for starting jobs this spring.
3. Replace Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray: The Eagles mist replace three starters along the defensive line, namely defensive ends Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray. Between the two, they combined for 15.5 sacks last season. The defensive line as a whole had 33 sacks last season. That is a lot of production to replace.
Defensive tackle Tanner Karaka is back and he’ll be joined inside by T.J. Rayam who replaces Ray Smith. Karaka, a redshirt junior had four sacks last season.
Replacing Allen and Ray won’t be as easy but the Eagles have promising young edge rushers in Marcus Valdez, Brandon Barlow and Joey Luchetti. All three will play starter snaps this upcoming season.
4. Brand new secondary: The Eagles have lost a lot of talent at linebacker and in the secondary. Gone are linebacker Conor Strahan, cornerback Hamp Cheevers and safeties Lukas Denis and Will Harris. Replacing that type of talent will not be easy.
The Eagles ranked fifth in the nation with 18 interceptions last season. Replacing that type of production will be tough but Addazio and his staff have recruited well so there is talent on hand.
Brandon Sebastian is the most experienced member of the secondary returning. He played in 12 games last season, starting seven of them. Everett product Jason Maitre and Tate Haynes will compete for the cornerback spot opposite Sebastian. Elijah Jones will also be in the mix.
Nolan Borgersen, Mehdi El Attrach, and Mike Palmer will all compete to replace Denis and Harris. The two safeties combined to start 66 games in their careers. Needless to say, those are some big shoes to fill.
5. Tight end competition: The Eagles must replace two year starter Tommy Sweeney but they have plenty of depth at the position. The only problem. The young tight ends lack experience.
Jake Burt, Chris Garrison and Hunter Long and Ray Marten all return and have playing experience but the offense will be new to them. Penn State transfer Danny Dalton of Marshfield is the player to watch in this competition. He is a detach tight end who is athletic, runs good routes and has a wide catch radius. He could be a difference maker for the Eagles offensively this season.
Boston College is graduating a lot of talent. You can make the argument that the 2018 Eagles were the most talented team the program has had in in the last ten years. Despite that talent and despite being ranked twice during the season, the Eagles finished a disappointing 7-5.
Addazio and his staff have recruited well but now it is time to take the program to the next level in the ACC. They must compete for conference championships.
Addazio shuffled his staff around and made changes. It will be interesting to see if those changes pay off this spring. The talent is in place. The coaches must get the most out of the returning players.